A “peasant” food
A typical dish of Rome and Latium, although less well known than others, it is considered a representative of the Roman “cucina povera”, the real cooking of the common man, which was born around the Testaccio slaughterhouse, using “lowly” cut of meat discarded by popes and cardinals, nobles and powerful. A simple recipe in both ingredients and preparation that even great chefs, however, today do not hesitate to offer in their restaurants, all the more so because, in addition to offering genuine and essential flavors, it holds the charm of stories and legends. Starting with the name: it is said to be called “alla fornara” or baker’s style as a tribute to Margherita Luti, the daughter of a Trastevere baker famously portrayed by Raphael – that is, the seductive Fornarina exhibited at Palazzo Barberini. More likely, however, the moniker is a reference to the times when home ovens were a rarity and, if you wanted to bake or roast something, you had to take your dish to the local bakery.
The recipe for revolution
The secret of revolutions lies in daring, said Giuditta Arquati Tavani, one of the women who championed the cause of the Unification of Italy and the end of the Church’s temporal power: to her, and her tragic end, we owe much of the recipe’s fame in Roman homes and taverns. We are in the second half of the 19th century, when sleepy papal Rome was being shaken by attempted revolts and insurrections. On 25 October 1867, three years before the Breach of Porta Pia, a group of Roman rebels were gathered in the Ajani woolen mill on Via della Lungara in Trastevere, organizing a riot while waiting for Garibaldi’s arrival from Monterotondo. The life of the insurgents ended that day: just before being killed by the bayonets of the Papal Zouaves, Giuditta, who used to encourage, spur and feed the rioters, had cooked the Baker’s Style Roasted Veal Breast. A bust portraying Giuditta is set in the wall of the house guarding the walkway on the street below, but we can honor her memory even more simply by preparing or enjoying her favorite recipe.
Ingredients - Serves 4
• 1 veal breast, about 1 kilo
• about half a glass of dry white wine
• 2 or 3 cloves of garlic, fresh sage and rosemary
• extra-virgin olive oil
• salt and pepper
Finely mince the herbs and garlic, mix them together with the salt and pepper and add olive oil. Rub this mixture all over the veal breast. Place the meat in a baking dish and let the veal breast marinate for at least an hour. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees and roast the breast for about an hour, basting it with white wine from time to time. Slice the meat and serve it still warm, drizzled with the pan juices.
The veal can be served along with baked potatoes, or a romaine salad, a “misticanza” with borage, chicory, rughetta and other fragrant and bitter herbs. A glass of wine from the Roman Castelli will bring out the flavor of the meat even more...